************ Sermon on 2 Peter 3:8-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 24, 2021
2 Peter 3:3-10
2 Peter 3:8-10
"The Day of the Lord (3)"
In the last days scoffers will come. The last days, remember, is a technical expression for the whole time between the two comings of Jesus. The scoffers mock the idea of a second coming of Jesus. We looked at their reasons. First, they don't think anyone is dumb enough to believe Jesus arose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and is seated at God's right hand. Second, they want to sin without fearing punishment. Third, they say nothing has changed since the creation of the world.
Peter assures the Christian believers with three different arguments that the Lord is coming again.
First, Peter says the Christians need to remember. Remember what?
2 Peter 3:2 (NIV84) — 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets ...Peter has in mind all the promises of the Old Testament about the Day of the Lord and the coming of the Messiah. Peter also wants them to remember what was said by Jesus Himself.
2 Peter 3:2 (NIV84) — 2 I want you to recall ... the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.Jesus had plenty to say about His return. This was written down by the apostles under the inspiration of the Spirit. Recall, remember, don't forget, what was said by Jesus and the prophets.
We looked at Peter's second argument last week. The scoffers mocked the Second Coming because they say nothing has changed. But Peter says they forget that by the Word of God the earth changed in the beginning, at the time of creation. By the Word of God it changed again at the time of the Flood. And, by that same Word it will change again at the Second Coming.
The scoffers hear these arguments and have a quick response: "Where is He then? Where is Jesus? Why the delay? It has been years since the promise was first given. Why is it taking so long?" If anything, this argument is more pressing today than at the time of Peter. The promise of Christ's coming to judge the living and the dead has been around for centuries, and it is yet to be fulfilled. The world certainly deserves judgment! What is going on? Has God changed His mind? Is God indifferent? Is God unable? Is God preoccupied with other things?
I God is Eternal
A In our Bible reading Peter says the scoffers make the mistake of making God in their image, of thinking God is like man. Man is mortal. His days are numbered. But God is eternal. He has neither beginning of days nor end of life. Eternity is not just "extended time." Rather, it is existence above and apart from time. Quoting from Moses in Psalm 90, Peter explains time from God's point-of-view:
2 Peter 3:8 (NIV84) — 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.The song, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" is based upon Psalm 90. Listen to stanza 4:
A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
God doesn't live in time. God is not bound by time. God is above time. God is outside of time. Time means nothing to God personally. Time has no effect, no impact, on God.
"With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." Think of what this means. It means it is just two days ago in God's sight since Jesus was crucified. That means Abraham was alive just four days ago. That means the Flood was just five or six days ago. In God's sight, the whole universe is still brand new. So no one should think the Second Coming is delayed. From God's point-of-view no time has passed since Jesus ascended into heaven. The scoffers do not understand God's view of time.
B God is above time and outside of time. And yet, He works in time. God works in time, but He is not limited by time. God has a schedule, a timeline, a plan, a blueprint. For example, God could have created the entire universe in an instant, yet He did it over a period of six days. He could have delivered Israel from Egypt in a moment, yet He first trained Moses for eighty years. He could have sent the Savior much sooner or much later, but He waited -- as Paul put it -- until "the time had fully come" (Gal 4:4). The timetable was incredibly precise. By the plan of God, Jesus was born when Caesar did a census and a star was in the East. By the plan of God, Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover so He died when the Passover lambs were dying. Jesus was not crucified earlier because, as John's Gospel tells us, Jesus' time had not yet come (Jn 2:4; 7:6,8,20; 8:20; 13:1). By God's plan, Jesus' time in the tomb covered the three days He predicted. By God's plan, the church was formed at the time of the Roman Empire when missionary journeys could happen and letters could be sent to the churches.
C "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." God's view of time is different than ours.
Do we understand any better than the scoffers? We consider the length of our days to be so important. Our grandchildren are quick to say how old they are -- even down to a fraction of a year. I'm not sure how old we are when we stop doing that. So kids are 6.5 and grown ups are 35 and not 35.5. But then old age comes and we start using fractions again. I am 92.5. Over the years I have met those who take pride in living longer than any of their friends or siblings or parents. Our lives are nothing, congregation. Before the infinite God we are but small, finite creatures. Look at it this way: if we live to be eighty years old, our lives last just under two hours in the eyes of God.
"With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." This says something about the seriousness of our sin. If we sin for half an hour it appears as twenty years to God. Consider, then, the implication for all muggers, thieves, cheats, rapists, and murderers who think their crimes are no big deal. Consider the implication for you and I as we often make light of our sin. In God's sight, our sin lasts for hours and days and years and ages. Sin hurts His heart and offends His majesty.
"With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." This has implications about answered prayer. You pray about something everyday for 18 years. You wonder why God has not answered. But in God's sight the prayer has been before Him for less than half an hour.
D "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness." God is not loitering. He is not late. He has not changed His mind. He is not indifferent. He is not unable. He is not preoccupied. He counts time differently. He is on His own schedule, His own timeline. He is following His blueprint, not man's. God doesn't operate by our clock. You may think a lot of time has passed but with God no time has passed because God does not live in time.
II God is Patient
A In verse 9 Peter presents another side of God's character to explain why the return of Christ has not yet happened:
2 Peter 3:9 (NIV84) — 9 He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.There are those who take this verse and say it either means God wants to save everyone or will save everyone. They come to this wrong conclusion because they misunderstand who Peter means by "you." The Second Coming has not yet happened because "He [God] is patient with you."
Who is "you"? "You" is found throughout the letter. It doesn't refer to the ungodly. It doesn't refer to unbelievers. It doesn't refer to atheists and agnostics. It doesn't refer to Muslims and Hindus. "You" refers to Peter's audience. Christians. Those with faith. Those who have received grace and peace. God's elect. Strangers in the world. And suddenly the verse makes a lot more sense.
B Why is God patient? Why hasn't He sent Christ to judge the living and the dead? Why hasn't the Second Coming happened? Because God refuses to release His wrath and judgment until He has gathered, protected, and preserved every member of His church. God is waiting for all the elect to repent and believe. God is angry about every single sin ever committed by every single person. But He holds back His judgment, He refrains from sending Christ to judge the living and the dead, until all His believers have been gathered in.
When people hurt us we have a hard time being patient for a day. When someone sins against us, we blow up pretty quick. But God is patient. God has been patient for hours and days and years and ages. God is patient for the sake of elect sinners, for the sake of those chosen for eternal life. Which means God is patient for your sake and my sake. God's patience for the elect explains why Jesus had not yet returned.
III The Day of the Lord
A We have heard Peter's arguments against the scoffers who mock the idea of a Second Coming. What comes next is Peter's description of Christ's return. Listen to verse 10:
2 Peter 3:10 (NIV84) — 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (Cf 2 Pet 3:12)
Peter uses an Old Testament phrase for the Second Coming. He calls it "the day of the Lord." We find this term over and over again in the prophets (Is 2:6-22; 13:6,9; Joel 1:15; 2:1-2, 11; Obadiah; Zeph 1:14ff; Zech 14; Mal 3 & 4).
Israel looked forward to the coming of the Day of the Lord. They longed for its appearance (Amos 5:18). They hoped for it, prayed for it, and waited for it. For they thought that is when God comes to visit judgment upon the heathen nations surrounding Israel. On that same Day Israel will be visited in salvation and blessing. This Day marks the beginning of God's eternal and blessed reign over all the earth on behalf of His chosen ones. This Day will bring Israel only good and the heathens only evil. The heathens have every reason to fear this Day, but Israel has no reason to fear and every reason to rejoice and be glad. Or so they thought.
The prophet Amos told the people of Israel that they were wrong about the Day of the Lord:
Amos 5:18–20 (NIV84) — 18 Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?What Amos said about the Day of the Lord must have shocked the people of Israel. Amos says God will send His fire on Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab -- and on Judah and Israel too!
Do you hear what Amos is saying? The Day of the Lord is a day of darkness. It is a day of destruction. Let's put it in New Testament language: the return of Jesus means wailing and mourning if you do not repent and believe, if you are not one of the chosen, if you are not part of the true church.
B The Day of the Lord, how does it come? "Like a thief," says Peter. What does that mean? Surprise. Unexpected. Thieves don't announce their arrival. They don't make appointments: "Get ready. I'm coming to rob you at 11 a.m. on Tuesday." They come suddenly and unexpectedly to plunder and take and devastate and destroy. The Day of the Lord is like that. We don't know when Jesus is coming. We don't know when the Day of the Lord will happen. God has made it that way so we will always be ready, always be watching and waiting and praying and working.
C What happens when the Day of the Lord comes? "The heavens will disappear with a roar." We think of the "heavens" as the earth’s atmosphere and the starry sky. But it is also a word that can mean "universe." That's what Peter has in mind: "The universe will disappear with a roar."
What else happens? "The elements will be destroyed by fire." The word "element" is used for things in a row. The letters of the alphabet are elements. The numbers one through ten are elements. The elements Peter is thinking are those we list in the periodic table: hydrogen, oxygen, gold, silver, sodium, lead, etc. That is, any of the substances that constitute the most basic components of the material universe. "The elements will be destroyed by fire."
"And the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." Dissolved. Melted with furious, unimaginable heat.
This is what will happen to the earth, to our solar system, to the great galaxies, to all the universe.
Do you know what all this sounds like? A nuclear explosion. We all have an idea of what happens with one nuclear bomb. But now imagine all the atoms of the entire universe being torn apart at the same time. Everything is burned. Nothing is left. Not even ashes.
You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come. They will say, "Where is Jesus?" They doubt the return of the Lord to judge the living and the dead.
But that's not us, is it? We know Jesus is coming. We believe Jesus is coming to judge the living and the dead. So we get ready. So we repent and believe. So we watch and wait.
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